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Dungeons of Dredmor

July 26th, 2011 by Troy Goodfellow · 7 Comments · RPGs

I seem to be writing a lot about my failures in gaming lately, and since the alternative to this post was an update on my continuing struggles in racing games, I thought that since roguelikes are designed to kill you, writing about Dungeons of Dredmor (Gaslamp Games) would be less embarrassing. (Because seriously, Tom. Beating my own time? I’m now struggling to finish a rally with both my doors attached. Shift 2 Unleashed seems to be teaching me valuable things, though.)

I’ve written many times about my love of roguelikes, and Dredmor is a roguelike for all intents and purposes. Dungeons and treasure are randomly generated, but have predictable behaviours. There is a basic quest, though you can pick up smaller subquests. The skills you improve are more important, in many cases, than simply leveling up. Food is important. Magic is very powerful if you can survive long enough. And, of course, permadeath. (Though you can turn it off, which is sort of cheating in a roguelike.)

It breaks from roguelikes in some important ways. Items don’t need to be identified – you know what something is as soon as you find it. There aren’t classes, per se – each character is a combination of skills that you choose at the beginning of the game, so a magic using blacksmith is entirely possible, maybe even viable. Food is used to heal, so there is no starvation. There are only ten dungeon levels, so there is actually quite a bit of danger in finishing off a floor before you descend further. Merchants will often offer to sell you all kinds of very powerful items on the top level, though getting the 60,000 gold could be a challenge.

Dredmor is a self consciously cute game. The monsters are cute, it tries to be self effacing in its treatment of the hero and villain, the spells and skills and weapons have wacky names. This becomes background noise after a while. It’s not that the humor wears out its welcome, as much as that it is so constant that it can’t stay fresh. Cute spell names are only cute the first time through. Compare this to something like Magicka, which was chock-a-block with stupid pop-culture references, but they always popped up in odd places and weren’t always waving their hands at you.

But I am really liking Dredmor because I am cursing it regularly. I am dying stupidly, getting killed by the last monster in a monster zoo or running out of healing food just as I decide to open one more room or maybe throwing a poison flask and then walking into the cloud like an idiot. All good roguelikes are typified by giving you memorable deaths that could have simply been avoided by turning around and going downstairs. Or upstairs. Anywhere but where you went. Your goofy looking hero (he looks like Guybrush Threepwood’s douchey older brother) will clutch his gut, wince and faint to the ground.

It’s a light roguelike, of course. There’s only so much you can do in it. This isn’t ADOM with a large universe saving plot or Dungeon Crawl and its dozens of races. It’s a dungeon crawl to the foozle and there isn’t even a great deal of monster variety. But a light roguelike with permadeath is more than enough to keep game sessions short and challenging. It will never replace Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup for me, but it’s a nice diversion for now.

If I have one nitpick, though, it’s that the character never changes. If my character inventory says I have a traffic cone on my head and a broken kite shield on my arm, then my character in the game should look like that. That would be worth another five dollars for me.


7 Comments so far ↓

  • Fumarole

    The fact that it has a GUI at all is a major step up for those new to roguelikes. A mouse-driven interface is something most gamers take for granted these days.

  • frags

    Loving this game. Addictive as hell. I ove the way you can use traps strategically. However, the pathfinding for your summoned golems and enemies aren’t to great.

  • Rob

    It’s a great little gem, surprised at how much I liked it. A “casual” roguelike if you will, but I found it a perfect game for the times where I can’t think of anything to play. I really like the soundtrack, despite it being borderline copyright infringement, helps set the tone for the whole game. It’s a steal for its price, I think some people are dismissing it as they expect something as hardcore as the most punishing roguelikes, but there are plenty of those already.

  • Fiyenyaa

    As someone who’s literally never played a roguelike before (I’ve played alot of Dwarf Fortress, but never in Adventure mode), I’m finding Dungeons of Dredmor to be amazing. Personally, I haven’t found the humour grating at all yet, either, although I guess that’s amazingly subjective.

    r.e. lack of graphical representation of gear on your character:

  • Troy

    Shame about the paper dolling being so difficult for them. It would really help me love my idiot character more.

    But woo to a female sprite.

  • BigDaddy

    An even more simplistic Rouge like is the PC remake of the C-64 classic “Sword of Fargoal”. My middle son (11) has been cutting his teeth on Nethack and dying in varied and glorious fashion. I told him I knew of a dungeon crawler it was actually possible to win and downloaded the remake, which while simple, has it’s own real-time traumas, and sound effects are vital to actually playing the game. He thought it was nice, but then went back to digging into Nethack. I was amused to see that there is a graphically up to date version being sold for the I-Pad and I-phone, which if I owned either of those two devices I would most certainly buy and then regret it, due to the “Angry Birds” addictive nature of the game.

  • Saulysw

    For $5, you can’t complain. Except that you might play it too long rather than doing what you should be doing (a mark of all good games!). Of a similar nature is the game FATE, which does have character skinning. That’s also pretty good if you have never tried it (there are several variant of the game now, eg FATE the cursed King is the latest, I think.


    FATE isn’t turn based though. Still, I’d classify it also as “Casual adventuring”, if you like that sort of thing. The graphics are better too.